Monday, March 19, 2018

Short Summary: One Dimensional man / Marcuse

In his 1964 "One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society" Neo-Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse (of the Frankfurt School) describes the state of society under capitalism. Marcuse introduces the concept of the "one dimensional man" as someone who is subjected to a new kind of totalitarianism in the form of consumerist and technological capitalism. Rationalism for Marcuse is a form of oppression which denies the possibility of change.
Marxism traditionally relied on discontent which arises from internal conflict as the motor for historical change. The problem with 20th century capitalism, according to Marcuse, is that conflicts concealed my mass consumer society in a manner which precludes change. We are a type of "blissful slaves", willingly obeying a system which keep us distractedly entertained and numbingly sated. A man under capitalism is "one dimensional" since he bears no trace of the conflicts which make him multi-dimensional and capable of change. This is why Marcuse believe that people under Liberal Western capitalism are no freer than people under totalitarian role, their oppression is just transparent. Capitalism is "enslaving us softly", not by mean of violent oppression but rather through comfortable temptation.
For Marcuse the one dimensional man is closely related to both consumerism and mass media that together serve as an ideological apparatus which reproduces itself through its subjects. This apparatus promotes conformity and is aimed at preventing resistance.      


Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Political Unconscious Explained (Jameson)


The political unconscious is a term coined by Neo-Marxist American thinker Fredric Jameson which holds that the cultural text is tied to an ideological-political "unconscious" which underlies it. This political hidden background expresses a class conflict which is expressed in the text in a complex manner. The function of the cultural text, according to Jameson, is to aesthetically reconcile to conflict which cannot be bridged in the material-historical level. A thorough analysis of a text can uncover its political unconscious and discover "symptoms" of the historical condition. The analysis Jameson offers for uncovering the political unconscious combines Marxist, semiotic and psychoanalytic analysis.
In his 1981 "The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act" Jameson suggests reading the text as an allegory, an ideological signifying method which functions in the gap between signifier and signified. Tracing back the function of the allegory an lay bare the hidden social content which function at the basis of the text like the Freudian unconscious functions at the base of the individual. Jameson is after the collective-unconscious and he therefore adds in semiotics and Marxism to his analysis of the political unconscious.
The way the texts manifest the political unconscious for Jameson is similar to some extent to the "Aestheticizing" function of art described by Walter Benjamin in "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction". The text or art product try to symbolically resolve tensions and conflicts and thus contain them.       

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